Tips From The Man Behind The Soap
I spoke to serial entrepreneur Adam Lowry as part of my Lessons in Leadership series in Thrive Global. Adam is the co-founder of two highly successful companies, Method and Ripple: Method, which Adam co-founded in 2000, is one of world's most iconic cleaning brands, creating beautiful cleaning products that are as kind to the planet as they are tough on dirt. Adam co-founded and grew the brand to become a $100MM company before selling to Ecover in 2012, and then both companies were sold to SC Johnson in 2017. Ripple Foods, maker of pea-based protein beverages and foods with an array of innovative and nutritious alt-dairy products such as milks, creamers and yogurts, has pulled in $110 million in capital since 2014. Adam recently joined the board of HEX Performance, a sustainable line of next-generation laundry products designed to clean and protect activewear. Here are some excerpts from my conversation with Adam:
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Adam: I’m an avid sailor. I race small sailboats and foiling kiteboards competitively. I’ve even won a few championships! I’m definitely my happiest when I’m on the water and striving for something. Being out in nature is my way of feeling connected. Using only what nature provides to get from A to B, to compete, to be out away from the business of everyday life; it helps me feel centered and it’s re-energizing for me. Running an organization and leading its people are things that can be very taxing, physically and emotionally. That recharge is an essential way that I maintain perspective and keep at it day after day.
Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Adam: A lot of people think that the Method story was all up and to the right, an overnight success story. The truth is we had our fair share of struggles. In 2007-08, we overextended our business into too many product categories at once, and we found ourselves unable to support all the businesses we were in. We made the difficult decision that we had to shrink the business and retrench from a base we could support. That meant laying off about a quarter of our team. That included a lot of close friends, and even a groomsman in my own wedding. That was a gut-wrenching experience, and it taught me the value of smart and prudent growth. The demands of a start-up are that you must always be pursuing growth, but there is such thing as reckless growth. I don’t know that I always get it right these days, but I am always conscious of whether the growth we’re taking on is growth we can support, now and into the future.
Adam: What are your best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
Adam: Jump in. And by that, I mean, give it a go! I find that too often, people are paralyzed by the fear of failure or lack of certainty that something is a good idea. Ultimately, there is only one way to find out – to do it. If you are a person that is focused on learning, and always improving on what you did yesterday, then uncertainty or failure are not things to be feared, they are things to be embraced, because they make you better. The best entrepreneurs and leaders are those that come up with original ideas and unique solutions. That’s impossible to do without risk. So embrace it.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Adam: Volumes have been written about this topic, so it’s hard to boil it down to one thing. For me, self-awareness, empathy, and listening are critical qualities for any leader to possess. They are foundational skills for being able to inspire, align, coach, motivate, and correct; the things a leader needs to do. They are also teachable – you can learn to be a better listener, to more naturally put yourself in others’ shoes, and to be a student of the ways you are perceived by others. For some that is an internal examination, for others it helps to have a coach to help you work through it. However you do it, though, the key is committing to getting better and working on it. That’s something anyone can do, regardless of your seniority or role within a company.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Adam: “Do something remarkable”. My Dad used to say that. He and my mom started a business together in 1981, and it was his way of saying that if what you’re doing has been done before, why are you doing it? If it’s not different and unique, it’s probably not worth doing. It’s what I think about in creating new products and what attracted me to HEX, a brand that is reinventing the way we clean activewear, with clean and proprietary technology – not perfumes and harsh chemicals.
For the full interview, visit https://thriveglobal.com/stories/tips-from-the-top-one-on-one-with-adam-lowry-co-founder-of-method-and-ripple-foods.